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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Deal brokered over seating row
AMs in the chamber
Labour AMs want to sit together on one side of the chamber
The Welsh assembly will not debate its seating arrangements amid warnings it risks becoming a laughing stock.

BBC Wales understands that the parties have brokered a deal to avoid having a debate on where they sit in the debating chamber.

A special committee will now be set up to reach an inter-party agreement, which means the issue will not be debated in a plenary session.

Assembly members had been due to spend an hour discussing who should sit where, before spending up to 12 hours voting on amendments.

The deal was welcomed by the leaders of all three opposition parties, who will now withdraw a motion of censure against the Business Minister Karen Sinclair.

The parties had accused Ms Sinclair of bringing the assembly into public ridicule.

Opposition debate ideas
Allocate seats by age starting with the youngest AM
Allocate seats by alphabetical order
Women on the left, men on the right
AMs to get seat 12 on their birthday

Economic Development Minister Andrew Davies accepted the debate had risked damaging the Assembly's reputation.

"We have been here for four years and there have been other issues like this," he said.

"There is a lot of fuss being made about something that is froth.

"The same thing happens in Parliament - this is just part of democracy."

Controversy erupted after Labour members proposed they should all sit together on one side of the chamber and called for an hour-long debate on the issue.

The decision to hold a formal debate on the seating plan for the assembly chamber had angered opposition parties.

Deliberately ludicrous

They tabled 801 amendments in an attempt to sabotage the discussion.

Many of these are deliberately ludicrous, such as the suggestion that AMs should be allowed seat number 12 if the full assembly meets on their birthday.

Other suggestions included allocating seats according to sex or age.

At present Labour is seated in the middle of the assembly, with the opposition behind.

The ruling party claims that the other parties are able to look over Labour shoulders to see confidential papers.

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08 Jul 03  |  Wales
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